Los Angeles archdiocese, Cardinal Mahony settle sex abuse cases

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony and a former priest have agreed to pay a total of nearly US$10 million (S$12 million) to settle four child sex abuse cases brought against them, lawyers for the victims said on Tuesday.

Cardinal Mahony, who retired in 2011 as head of the largest US archdiocese and is now in Rome taking part in choosing a new pope, was accused of helping a confessed paedophile priest evade law enforcement by sending him out of state to a church-run treatment centre, then placing the priest back in the Los Angeles ministry.

As part of the agreement approved by a Los Angeles judge earlier this month, none of the parties admitted wrongdoing, according to a plaintiff's attorney in the case, Mr Vince Finaldi.

But Mr Finaldi said the settlement, together with the recent release of internal church records documenting the role of Cardinal Mahony and others in covering up child sexual abuse by the clergy, comes "as close to an admission of guilt as you're going to get from the archdiocese".

A lawyer for the archdiocese, Mr Michael Hennigan, confirmed a settlement in the amount of US$9.99 million was reached. He added the archdiocese "has always taken the position that we were responsible for the conduct" of the paedophile priest named in the case.

Scandals over sex abuse in the US Catholic Church, which erupted in 1992 with a series of molestation cases uncovered in Boston, have cost the church billions of dollars in settlements and driven prominent dioceses into bankruptcy.

The Los Angeles archdiocese, which serves 4 million Catholics, reached a US$660 million civil settlement in 2007 with more than 500 victims of child molestation, marking the biggest such agreement of its kind in the nation. Cardinal Mahony at that time called the abuse "a terrible sin and crime".

The archdiocese has reached a handful of smaller settlements in other cases since then, but the one announced on Tuesday was by far the biggest, Mr Finaldi added.